Revisiting Grade School: History, Math, Science, Art, & Playing With Dirt



As I mentioned yesterday, I desperately need to revamp my daily routine.  The rigid schedule that I drafted on New Year’s Day contained 50-plus daily tasks.  Every minute of the day was planned.  But just thinking about it was so overwhelming that I never once implemented it.  So for the past several weeks, I’ve been winging it…  And I’m essentially watching precious time slip through my fingers

I’ve known since the eighth grade, when I was given my very first daily planner, that I function much better with a checklist.  So now, nearly 15 years later, I’m taking myself back to the grade school basics.  In order to maximize the value of my time and efforts – in order to become a more effective mother and more productive homemaker – I need a workable, written time management plan.


In his book Eat That Frog!, Brian Tracy discusses what he calls the “80/20 Rule.”  This principle states that 20 percent of the tasks we perform account for the “vital few” that contribute to successfully reaching our goals.  Those 20 percent of our daily tasks, however, account for 80 percent of the importance of what we do in a day.

Conversely, 80 percent of of the tasks we perform are the “trivial many” that prevent us from making forward strides.  Busy-work, if you will.  They account for no more than 20 percent of the importance of what we do.  Considering this principle has allowed me to add a quantitative value to my daily activities, and prompted me to eliminate the unnecessary.


In her blog series “How to Develop a Routine That Works–and Stick With It!,” Crystal Paine illustrates filling a jar with big rocks, gravel, sand, and water.  Sounds like an elementary school science project, but it’s a metaphor for daily tasks.  She appropriately summarizes the demonstration by saying, “If you don’t put your big rocks in first, the fillers of life will take up your day and you won’t fit your big rocks in at all.”

The scientific method you learned about in the fifth grade says that step one of any experiment is “characterizations.”  In this case, that means creating definitions for my big rocks, gravel, sand, and water.  So here’s what I’ve come up with…

  • BIG ROCKS (Must Do)
    • Teach, Care for, and Love on Joshua
    • Cook
    • Dishes/Clean Kitchen
    • Do Laundry
    • Set Clean-up Timer
    • Daily Run
    • Read
    • Blog
    • E-mail
  • GRAVEL (Should Do)
    • Help Busia (Polish for “grandma”) & Grandpa
    • Weekly outing (aka “hot date”) with Joshua
    • Deep Cleaning
    • Couponing
    • Price Match-Ups
    • Shopping
  • SAND (Would Be Good to Do)
    • Correspond with Loved Ones via Phone or Snail Mail
    • DIY Projects
    • Rewards Programs
  • WATER (Might or Might Not Do)
    • Outings with Friends
    • Catch Up on My Favorite TV Shows


With clear definitions in place, my routine should (hopefully!) ensure that I act daily toward fulfilling my priorities and accomplishing the goals I’ve set for myself.  But as everyone knows, nothing goes as planned 100 percent of the time.  I’m sure there will be some occasional (maybe frequent) tweaking.  So this blog will serve as the forum I use to hold me accountable for creating a routine that works.

As Paine said in her book The Money Saving Mom’s Budget, “Life is art, not science, so there is always some give and take.”  The ultimate goal is to come up with a plan that will help me to best serve my loved ones, my community, myself, and God.  And as the seasons of my life change, surely so will my big rocks (and all the other dirt).

If you have any tips, suggestions, or words of encouragement, I welcome you to leave a comment on this or any of the other time management posts.  Thanks!

Other Posts in This Series:

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